KHARTOUM | Thu Feb 16, 2012
(Reuters) – Sudan and South Sudan want to have the bulk of their loosely-defined and volatile border demarcated as soon as within three months, a Sudanese official said on Thursday, in a possible bid to ease tensions between the two former civil war foes.
The demarcation, however, would not include five areas that are still disputed by the two sides, said Yahya al-Hussein, a senior government official and member of Sudan’s negotiating team.
South Sudan broke off from its northern neighbor in July under a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of conflict, but lingering issues such as where to draw the border and how to untangle the oil industry have continued to stoke tensions between the two sides.
Tribal disputes, overlapping territorial claims, rebel fighting and the presence of economically vital oil fields have beguiled attempts to define the exact boundary.
“The two parties have agreed to begin work on drawing the border immediately, and finish work within three months if operating conditions allow for it,” Hussein told reporters in Khartoum.
The two sides have agreed on about 90 percent of the border since 2009, Hussein added.
They have been meeting this week in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to discuss the border and other sensitive issues such as oil.
Tensions along the boundary have made it harder for the two sides to reach a deal around how much landlocked South Sudan should pay to send its oil – vital to both economies – through northern pipelines running to an export terminal in Sudan.
The new nation shut down its roughly 350,000 barrels per day of production last month in protest after Khartoum began confiscating some oil to make up for what it called unpaid fees. Officials on both sides have suggested war could break out over the row.
Hussein downplayed the chance of armed conflict, however, saying it would not benefit Sudan.
“We have no desire to enter into a war with South Sudan,” he said. “We do not have an interest in security tensions in South Sudan, which affect us negatively in the form of displacement and other issues.”
Some 2 million people died in the civil conflict between north and south, waged for all but a few years between 1955 and 2005 over ideology, ethnicity, religion and oil.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)
Old African division takes violent turn
By GWYNNE DYER
Sudan was bombing South Sudan again last week, only a couple of months after the two countries split apart. Sudan is mostly Muslim, and South Sudan is predominantly Christian, but the quarrel is about oil, not religion. And yet, it is really about religion too, since their border is along the religious divide.
Ivory Coast was split along the same Muslim- Christian lines for nine years, although there is an attempt to sew the country back together.
But in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest country, the situation is going from bad to worse, with the Islamist terrorists of Boko Haram murdering people all over the country in the name of imposing shariah law on the nation. The death toll from terrorist attacks and army reprisals is probably a few hundred a month, but the potential for much greater slaughter is there.
“Boko Haram,” loosely translated, means “Western education is forbidden,” and the organization’s declared aim is to overthrow the government and impose Islamic law on all of Nigeria. In a 40-minute audio message posted on YouTube two weeks ago, the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, threatened his next step would be a bombing campaign against Nigeria’s secondary schools and universities.
This is not only vicious; it is also completely loony. There is no way that Boko Haram could conquer the entire country. Only half of Nigerians are Muslims, and they are much poorer than the country’s 80 million Christians. The Christian south is where the oil, the ports and most of the industry are, so that’s where most of the money is, too. The same pattern is repeated in many other African countries: Poor Muslim north; prosperous Christian south.
There was no plan behind this. Islam spread slowly south from North Africa, which was conquered by Arab armies in the seventh century, while Christianity spread rapidly inland once European colonies appeared on the African coast in the last few hundred years. The line where Islam and Christianity meet runs across Africa about 1,100 kilometres north of the equator (except in Ethiopia, where the Christians have the highlands and the Muslims the lowlands).
In general, Muslims ended up with the desert and semi-desert regions of Africa because Islam had to make it all the way across the Sahara, while the more fertile and richer regions nearer to the equator and all the way down to South Africa are mainly Christian because the Europeans arrived by sea with much greater economic and military power. But nowhere does the frontier derive from conquest: These populations are not looking for revenge.
There probably won’t be a full-scale civil war in Nigeria this time around, but Boko Haram is targeting Christians indiscriminately. The Nigerian army, not known for its discipline and restraint, is almost as indiscriminate in targeting devout but innocent Muslims in the northern states that are home to the terrorist organization.
It will get worse in Nigeria, and it is getting bad again in what used to be Sudan, and Ethiopia is an accident just waiting to happen. Even Ivory Coast may not be out of the woods yet. There is a small but real risk that these conflicts could some day coalesce into a general Muslim-Christian confrontation that would kill millions and convulse all of Africa.
Boko Haram’s style of radical Islamism is an import from somewhere else, and it would be a terrible mistake for large numbers of Muslim Nigerians to embrace it. On the other hand, if Nigeria doesn’t get a choke chain on its army, its brutal actions are all too likely to drive Nigerian Muslims in exactly that direction.
— Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.
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